Behavior = Motivation * Ability * Trigger

In most cases, we go about our daily routine without much thought to how we actually get things done. BJ Fogg, a professor at Stanford, has done the thinking for us through his Behavior Model for Persuasive Design.

Professor Fogg breaks down the three ingredients as follows:

Motivation – the general desire or willingness of someone to do something

  • Pleasure/Pain – does it bring you pleasure or will it relieve your pain?
  • Hope/Fear – does it give you hope or does it alleviate fear?
  • Social Acceptance/Rejection – is it within social acceptance or will you be rejected?

Ability – a.k.a. simplicity is a function of a person’s scarcest resource at the trigger point

  • Time
  • Money
  • Physical Effort
  • Brain Cycles
  • Non-Routine (routine is easier)

Trigger – something that tells a person to perform the behavior now

  • Spark – a motivational element, like encouragement from a friend
    • works best when a person lacks motivation
  • Facilitator – making the behavior easier
    • works best when a person has high motivation, but lacks the ability
  • Signal – a well-timed reminder, like a calendar entry
    • works best when a person has both the ability and the motivation

In general, accomplishment is more likely if we make the target behavior simpler rather than piling on motivation.  Give me a more efficient workout, an easier way to eat healthy, a quicker way to do my taxes.

By studying and understanding what it takes to accomplish a task, we can better identify the reasons we are or, more importantly, are not getting it done.